North is warned over latest threat

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North is warned over latest threat

South Korea yesterday warned North Korea that it will sternly retaliate against any provocation following Pyongyang’s latest military threats.

On Thursday, Pyongyang sent a threatening telephone message to Seoul saying it will launch a strike without warning, a senior South Korean official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The message, sent from the North’s National Defense Commission, which is headed by leader Kim Jong-un, came through the truce village of Panmunjeom, the source said. The message was directed to the South’s National Security Council, an advisory body to the president.

In the message, the North complained that a rally held by conservative groups in Seoul earlier this week was “an insult to the dignity of the supreme leadership.”

To mark the second anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader, five conservative groups in the South held a rally in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, on Tuesday in which they burned effigies bearing photos of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. They also called Kim Jong-un “the world’s devil” for executing his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, last week and threatening the South.

The South Korean government said yesterday it replied to the North’s message.

“Under the name of the Ministry of National Defense’s policy planning office, we sent a reply to the North,” said Kim Min-seok, the ministry spokesman. “We warned clearly that our military will sternly retaliate to any North Korean provocation.”

According to Kim, the North’s message was delivered to the Blue House’s National Security Council. The two Koreas exchanged the messages through the military communication channel restored in September.

Nothing out of the ordinary militarily was observed in the North, but the South’s military is paying special attention, he said.

It was but the latest threatening message from the North. The most recent came last month when the South was preparing a live-fire military drill near the western sea border at the time of the third anniversary of the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

“If a single shot falls in the North’s territory, the South will be turned into a sea of fire,” Pyongyang thundered at the time.

The North also demanded an apology from the South Korean government in April when some conservative groups burned an effigy bearing Kim Jong-un’s photo at a rally.

Seoul worries that Pyongyang might actually follow through on its threat this time in order to distract its people from the bloody purge of Jang. The uncle of Kim Jong-un who was considered the second-most powerful man in the country was executed last week after he was convicted of treason and luxurious living by a special military tribunal.

Since then, the South’s military has heightened its watch on the North in cooperation with U.S. intelligence authorities.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin already said that the North may stage an attack between January and March of next year. He said misjudgments in the North are particularly possible if there’s loyalty competition among the top brass in the aftermath of Jang’s execution.

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